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Student Issue Essay Analysis Part VIII

This is Part VIII of my Student Issue Essay Analysis series. I’ll be posting a prompt our Premium students have responded to over at the Magoosh product (under real exam conditions) and giving my analysis of the essay. If you want, have a look at the prompt first and try your hand at the essay, and see how yours stacks up.

Check out my past commentary:


Universities should require students to take courses only within those fields they are interested in studying.

Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.

Student’s essay

The ongoing debate about whether a university should require students to take courses only within their fields of study or take extra classes to fulfill graduation requirements is an interesting one. There any many valid arguments to each side and it is not a simple black or white choice when deciding who is right. However, by requiring students to only take courses within their major, it allows for students focus on taking classes that are only applicable to their future careers and allows them to save money in a time where saving money is equally important to a college degree.

In many situations, students will finish high school and go on to college with an idea of what they want to do with their life. For students who are in majors such as engineering or the a science field such as chemistry or biology, it is important to for them to stay on top of all of their course work because of the higher number of courses that they must take in order to fulfill the university requirements for a degree. Many of these students knew before they entered college that this would be the case and gladly accepted that challenge, however by requiring students to take extra general education classes to fulfill their diploma requirements seems counter intuitive to a level of education where students are beginning to focus and narrow in on their future career goals. By forcing say a engineering student to take music theory or British literature just simply to fulfill a general education requirement and having that class conflict with a engineering major course seems to prevent these students from coming to college and fully obtaining their goal as quickly as possible.

The other aspect to consider is the financial aspect. In many of these situations, the students are under pressure to finish their degree as soon as possible because of many state budget cuts to education which limit the number of classes offered with in their major. Not only does this mean extra classes that students must take and thus more money they have to spend because tuition is usually based on a per unit fee, forcing these extra classes upon can have a longer impact if they are forced to stay longer in college than they originally assumed they would. College already charges an extremely large amount to attend and that already does not take into account the other expenses that students have to pay (such as room and board, food, and books), but adding on extra semester, quarters, or even years because a student had to take general education classes instead of strictly major classes is an unfair system to put a student through.

As with any situation though, there are always exceptions to the rule. For one not every student enters college with the same career focus and direction as their peers. Many students will come into college unsure of the direction they want to take and many students who think they know what direction they want to go, end up changing their minds (sometimes multiple times). By requiring students to take classes from a broad range of spectrums, Universities can help students narrow down what career path they may want to follow. Many times students may have a preconceived notion of what a subject may be about and not want to try it, yet by requiring it, they may be able to find themselves in a new class with something they may choose to pursue in the future, something they perhaps never would have considered. There is also something to be said about being able to take higher education classes simply for the benefit of wanting to learn about something that interests you. College allows you to do that and by making it a requirement, it allows students a bigger chance to do that.

Overall though, universities that force students to take upwards of 10-12 general education classes just to fulfill a requirement for their diploma seems unfair. When a student comes into college with a specific end game in site, the universities should not hinder their goals by overloading them with extra requirements and instead focus on helping hem obtain their goals as quickly as possible. The time and financial benefits that could be reaped by not requiring students to take these classes could have a direct impact on the success of all students as well as the future communities they intend to help.

My analysis

Score: 5.0
This essay covers most of the bases: it offers analysis on both sides of the issue, it throws in a few sentences that address the specific instructions, and it, for the most part, clearly articulates a position. The essay does not wow with thorough analysis, great sentence variety (or indeed any stylistic flourishes). In other words, it gets the job done without making too many missteps.

While I award this essay a ‘5’, there are moments when that score seems shaky. This is not mainly due to the ideas (though the generalizations don’t help: “As with any situation though, there are always exceptions to the rule”); at times the sentences become overloaded and tend to digress.

Word choice could have also been a little more dynamic. “Large”, “bigger”, etc. could be spiced up a little more: “astronomical”, “excessive”, etc.

In addition to making the sentence more readable, and varying up the syntax a little, the essay could have been improved with a little more analysis. I would have like to say more than taking more courses is expensive. Sure, that is a totally valid point, but to spend an entire paragraph on it the overly long first paragraph about students who are not engineers as well.

Additionally, the last body paragraph is confusing: “There is also something to be said about being able to take higher education classes simply for the benefit of wanting to learn about something that interests you. College allows you to do that and by making it a requirement,it allows students a bigger chance to do that.” Is the author implying that colleges shouldn’t require students to take only course in their field (which would go against the main point of the essay)? And by saying that colleges make“it a requirement” that college require students to take courses outside their field?

Had this paragraph been a little clearer and had the writer expanded the scope of thefinancial issue, this essay—along with a little more dynamic writing and sentence variety—could get at least a definitive ‘5’, if not a ‘5.5’.

A note about essay grading

While I’d love to grade everyone’s practice essays, that’s just simply not possible. Unfortunately I won’t be able to grade new essays, as students’ essays have already been chosen in advance. Instead, if you’re wondering how to get feedback on getting your practice AWA essays graded, check out this page:

How to Get Your AWA Practice Essays Graded?

If you have any questions about my analysis, let me know in the comments below!

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7 Responses to Student Issue Essay Analysis Part VIII

  1. Tej November 12, 2016 at 8:26 pm #

    Hi Chris and Magoosh team,

    Great job on compiling and grading these essays for the rest of us!

    You mention in your analysis that the writer could have expanded on the scope of the financial issue. Could you explain what’s missing?

    Also, since the author had mentioned “saving money” right in the intro, I was wondering if mentioning finances again makes the essay a bit repetitive or if it would it be more logical to have the “financial aspect” paragraph right after the intro to maintain a better flow of ideas?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 13, 2016 at 7:56 am #

      Hi Tej,

      I believe that Chris’s point is that the author could have summed up his financial argument in one or two sentences (instead of an entire long paragraph) and added different aspects to this argument. The author could have also discussed how excessive debt caused b extra classes can negatively impact a young person’s life, or how the increased cost might prevent people from even getting an education. The student focused so much on the immediate cost of the extra credits, that he/she didn’t have time to create a more complete and nuanced argument! It’s important to make your arguments succinct and try to explore different sides of the issue–not just one part or facet of it!

      • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
        Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 13, 2016 at 8:08 am #

        And one more thing–in this case, the student mentioned two major points in his thesis statement (career preparation and finances). It doesn’t really matter which one he/she discusses first, but generally the points are argued in the order in which they first appear in the thesis (i.e. first career prep and then finances.) So even though the intro paragraph ends with a point about finances, it’s fine to begin the first body paragraph discussing career prospects 🙂

  2. dj August 29, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    I’ve read all the essay analysis posts on this prompt provided in magoosh’s blog. I think there’s a confusion in understanding the prompt.

    Should students be required to take courses only in fields that they’re interested, like Physics?

    Or it is about students being required to take courses that they’re interested in, thereby allowing them to skip compulsory introductory classes because of money and time constraints?

  3. Madu August 11, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

    Hello Chris,

    Is there a fixed template for the issue essays like the one which we have for the argument ones?

  4. Sanam September 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    Hello Chris,

    The essay only brings up two supporting arguments and 1 conflicting argument. Would it not hurt an essays score if it only has 2 instead of 3 supporting argument?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

      Hi Sanam,

      The GRE graders don’t expect you to come up with three supporting examples and a concession point. Doing so would compromise any of those examples because you’d have to rush through them. So two supporting, well-developed supporting examples is perfect as long as you add a concession point.

      Hope that helps 🙂

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